Pixar’s Toy Story 2 was almost inadvertently deleted due some careless key strokes and a bad backup. Check out the nerve-wracking video on Tested.com.
Like many of you, I have also lost data from time to time as a result of stupid decisions, or a misplaced command (as with the Pixar folks) or even worse circumstances. It is worth recounting some of those tales to show you how important it is to start thinking about your backups.
Backups usually only matter when you lose something, and then you go into a panic state trying to figure out what you actually lost and where you can retrieve the most recent copy of your files. A survey from Mozy found that a mere 15% of small companies actually use cloud backup to protect their business. So why not take some time now and come up with a solid backup strategy for all of your data? Obviously, using a cloud-based backup service such as Mozy is one part of the picture, but you should also consider some other things. Here are a few things I’ve learned from my past mistakes.
Files Aren’t the Only Thing to Back Up
One of the most important things that I do is write a weekly email newsletter to my clients and potential clients. I have been doing it for 16 years or so. The LISTSERV was once maintained by a friend of mine, on a machine sitting in a second friend’s basement. Well, that arrangement wasn’t working for me when the basement flooded and the machine had to be taken offline. I realized that the only thing that I didn’t have a backup copy of was the actual email names on the list itself, which were easily obtained by sending the listserv a simple command. Luckily, the server was eventually brought online and I could get the names from it. Now I send that command every week to get a fresh copy of my subscribers. This could happen to you: part of a good backup strategy is remembering things such as my email list that don’t fit into neat categories or simple files that are on your own hard drive.
Keep Backups of Backups
Another time I lost my laptop from the trunk of my car: I was in a suburban shopping mall and someone saw me put some packages in the trunk before I headed back for some more shopping. Luckily, most of what was on that laptop was backed up, or so I thought. My emails were using Lotus Notes, which automatically backs up the entire stream on my company servers. When I got a replacement, some of the email addresses were missing. Where did they go? No one knew. This shows that you should never take anything for granted, and have backups of your backups.
Don’t Trip Up on Trips
As a result of losing my laptop in this way, whenever I travel I think about what happens if it were to be stolen or lost? I try to always have a backup of the new work that I created when on the road on some other device: such as in the cloud or on a USB stick that I carry separately.
How often have you been working on a document, only to have the computer freeze up and lose some work? This is a minor nuisance, and most modern versions of word processors have auto-save features, but still. Be prepared.
Test Your Systems!
How did it end for Pixar? Luckily, one team member had made her own independent backup copy and took it home. This gets across my final point: always test your backups to make sure they are actually current and you can restore something from them.